JRT Will Start New Season in New Space With Laurents' Big Potato

News   JRT Will Start New Season in New Space With Laurents' Big Potato Jewish Repertory Theatre in Manhattan will open its 2000-2001 season in a new home, the 199-seat Doris Duke Theatre on West 42nd Street, according to industry casting notices.

Jewish Repertory Theatre in Manhattan will open its 2000-2001 season in a new home, the 199-seat Doris Duke Theatre on West 42nd Street, according to industry casting notices.

The venue is part of The New 42nd Street Studios complex, a 10-story beehive of offices and rehearsal spaces for nonprofit companies, at 229 W. 42nd Street between Eighth and Seventh avenues.

The professional Equity JRT previously performed at Playhouse 91 on the Upper East Side. It was not immediately clear if JRT's entire new season would be at the Duke, but the 2000-2001 season will open, as previously reported by Playbill On-Line, with the world premiere Arthur Laurents' Big Potato, a comedy about an unlikely Nazi-hunter in Queens, NY.

Previews begin Oct. 10, opening is Oct. 22 and performances continue to Nov. 19. JRT stages the production in association with Daryl Roth and Scott Rudin, who will take the show to a commercial next-step if such a move is warranted.

* In Big Potato, the little-known Laurents play written in 1972, a beautician in Queens who survived the World War II concentration camps discovers a war criminal in her neighborhood.

Richard Sabellico directed a private reading of a revised script of Big Potato at The Dramatists Guild May 19 with a cast including the Polish acting star Elzbieta Czyzewska as Nessa (of the beauty parlor), Brian Murray as Julius (the former Nazi), David Margulies as Itzhak (Nessa's husband), Joanna Glushak as Rochelle (Nessa's daughter) and Ryan Artzberger as Sonny (Nessa's son, a Vietnam vet). The play takes place in the early 1970s.

The title is a reference to Nessa's nickname for Nazis -- she calls them potatoes. The guard from the camp is the "big potato." The play concerns Nessa's wish to right past wrongs.

The play had been in the files of Sabellico, Laurents' colleague who assisted the playwright on the Tyne Daly revival of Gypsy and directed the fall 1999 New York City revival of Laurents' Home of the Brave for JRT. Sabellico suggested that the play be taken out of mothballs and explored, and Laurents agreed, penning rewrites toward the new reading and production.

In April, JRT announced to subscribers that Big Potato would be presented in the 2000-2001 season. Several actors from the reading cast are likely to be part of the full staging.

*

Laurents, of course, is the playwright and director who may be best known for the books of Gypsy and West Side Story, but who also penned the screenplay for "The Way We Were," libretti for Hallelujah, Baby!, Do I Hear a Waltz? and Anyone Can Whistle. His play, The Time of the Cuckoo, was revived this season by Lincoln Center Theater and his recent play, Jolson Sings Again, has been staged regionally and is expected to appear in Manhattan in the coming season.

Laurents' autobiography, "Original Story By," was released in early 2000.

-- By Kenneth Jones